Down East 2013 ©
Photograph by Greg Currier
Excerpted from Designing the Maine Landscape by Theresa Mattor and Lucie Teegarden; Down East Books; hardcover; 216 pages; $50.
Poland Spring Resort and Golf Course
Leisure in the genteel tradition.
The Poland Spring golf course, in the town of Poland, was the first course built at a resort in the United States. The original six-hole course was designed in 1896 by Arthur Fenn, who is considered the country’s first native-born professional golfer. Today, the site is an eighteen-hole public course located in the rolling foothills of western Maine. Situated near the top of Ricker Hill, two hundred feet above Middle Pond and Lower Range Pond, the course offers commanding views of the White Mountains to the west.
Scotsman Donald Ross redesigned Fenn’s nine-hole course and added nine more holes in 1913. In his career, Donald Ross designed or revised more than four hundred golf courses in the United States and Canada, including eleven in Maine. Among his nationally known courses are Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, Seminole in Florida, and Oakland Hills outside of Detroit.
Poland Spring differs from Kebo Valley and Megunticook in that originally there was no separate clubhouse. However, not long after Ross’ redesign of the course, the resort added modern accommodations for golfers, such as reading and lounging rooms, lockers, bath facilities, and a room for repairing equipment.
In the early 1900s Poland Spring enjoyed a reputation as one of the largest resorts in the world. Results of its golf tournaments were published regularly in the New York Times, and the American Golfer regularly included the course in its pages. The same period also saw a surge in automobile travel, which changed the nature of vacationing in Maine. Increased mobility meant that fewer families chose to stay in one location for their entire vacation. Tourism declined at Poland Spring Resort, and the Depression ended any significant business. Nevertheless, the golf course continued to thrive, as shown in this 1934 description: “It would be difficult to find a more thoroughly enjoyable and attractive setting than one finds at Poland Spring. . . . Today its course is a real delight to those who demand the best there is in the way of turf conditions, both on the putting greens and through the fairways.”
Today the Poland Spring Resort continues to thrive as a popular seasonal destination, with three inns, eleven cottages, and eight hundred acres accessible by numerous trails. But the greatest attraction at Poland Spring remains the historic golf course, with its spectacular views of the White Mountains, velvet greens, and beautiful fairways, ponds, and tees.
Kebo Valley Golf Club
The social center of Bar Harbor.
Kebo Valley Golf Club is an eighteen-hole classic link and parkland course located just one and one-half miles south of Bar Harbor. Nestled between Cadillac and Dorr mountains, the public club shares a border with Acadia National Park. For well over one hundred years, Kebo has served as a major social center for golfers and vacationers in Bar Harbor.
The Kebo Valley Club was incorporated in 1888 under the Acadia Park Company to promote “the cultivation of athletic sports and furnishing innocent amusement for the public for reasonable compensation.” Landscape engineer Joseph H. Curtis prepared a well-laid out plan of thirty house lots, four tennis courts, a casino, theater, “Base Ball Ground, Concourse,” and a half-mile horse-racing track. It is not surprising that Curtis’ plan did not include a golf course, since the first permanent course in America was built that same year.
The first six holes were designed in 1892 by Herbert Corey Leeds, a talented, all-around sportsman, golfer, and course designer, who went on to design Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. In 1915 Kebo board members voted to enlarge the course to eighteen holes, but their efforts were sidetracked by World War I. The enlarged course was finally built in the early 1920s.
The Kebo Valley Golf Club consistently ranks among the country’s best public courses for its challenging game and stunningly beautiful landscape. Gently rolling hills contrast with the rugged natural scenery of Mount Desert Island, and before the leaves emerge in spring, Frenchman’s Bay is visible from the clubhouse. The granite-exposed mountains of Cadillac, Champlain, Dorr, and Kebo provide a splendid backdrop to another of Maine’s enduring landscapes.
Megunticook Golf Club
Rustic beauty on Penobscot Bay.
Megunticook Golf Club is a nine-hole course on sixty-six acres in Rockport, nestled against the shore of Penobscot Bay. The club is among the oldest surviving private golf clubs in Maine, first organized in 1899, incorporated in 1901, and opened in 1902, and its clubhouse is the oldest golf club building in Maine. Today, about eighty thousand properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places; Megunticook is a rarity as one of only twenty-four golf courses or golf club houses included in this listing. Megunticook is also unusual for its conservation easement with Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The easement prevents this valuable open space from ever being developed for residential or commercial use.
Unlike Poland Spring and Kebo Valley, Megunticook Golf Club was started specifically for golf. The game was introduced in Camden in 1898 by summer visitors who laid out a six-hole course on nearby Ogier’s Hill, where “[the] situation is one of great natural beauty and wide and various views of mountain and sea to be had from Ogier’s hill cannot fail to charm the visitor.”
The beauty of the Megunticook landscape lies in its combination of natural and man-made features. Parts of the course are left naturally steep, with high points from which to see the bay. The native landscape contrasts dramatically with the manicured greens, some of which are hidden by ledge and stands of native trees. Two of the holes are reached through woodland trails, a feature not found at Poland Spring or Kebo.